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Alberta's Francophone Heritage
Background, People, Culture, Heritage Community Foundation, Albertasource and Alberta Lottery Fund

 

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First Settlements

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Father Albert Lacombe en route to Calgary from Blackfoot reserve, Alberta.

The Catholic Church contributed significantly to the French-Canadian settlement of Western Canada. Bishop Alexandre Taché hoped to have French-Catholic settlers come to the West where they could reap the benefits of good-quality land and provide a positive influence for the indigenous population. Another important member of the clergy, when a campaign was organized to recruit French-Canadian and francophone Europeans to the West, Taché’s countryman, Father Albert Lacombe found himself holding a great deal of influence.

This section shall examine a few of the pre-existing communities in what is now Alberta, some which became important centres. During the great settlement promotion put on by the Canadian government for the "Last, Best, West," the French-speaking clergy and businessmen actively promoted francophone settlers. Settlers were sought in Quebec; New England and elsewhere in the United States; as well as in Europe, especially in France and Belgium.


Tall orders: Government requirements of homesteaders in the early West.

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In Alberta, the first French-speaking settlers established themselves in the Edmonton region, while south in Calgary, judge Charles Rouleau and his brother (a doctor) attracted a small group of French-Canadians. A series of francophone communities sprung up in the northeast of the province, but the province-wide settlement occurred at approximately the same time. A small group of former French military men settled in central Alberta and named their town Trochu after their leader. Further south, not far from the American border in the Rocky Mountains, the coal industry attracted qualified labour from the North of France and Belgium. Settlement in the northwest of the province happened a bit later, after 1909, and several French communities were established, comprised mostly of settlers from Quebec.

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